You may have seen recently that there have been a few televised debates asking the question, Should children be taught about sexuality in schools? Which comes after some pretty shocking footage released from schools where parents are protesting about this very thing. There have been calls for LGBTQ lessons to be cancelled and reports of children and certain teachers being personally victimised. The whole thing is abhorrent and actually quiet shocking in today’s day and age, however it does seem to be splitting the nation as the debate continues to be discussed.
If you had asked me 6 months ago should children be taught about sexuality in schools, I would have said no. Not because I am against the subject matter being discussed in front of my children but because I would have assumed that it was no longer necessary to educate our children on the simple fact that men can be with men and women can be with women. I would have said that it is a subject that should be presented in every day lessons, from the books they read to the maths puzzles they solve but that individual lessons would not be required and instead would be a waste of lesson time that would be better spent teaching core subjects. I may also have suggested that simply introducing a gay uncle to the Biff, Chip and Kipper family would be sufficient because lets face it, at what stage do we explain to our preschoolers that Chip’s parents share a room and have a heterosexual relationship? We don’t. Our children just accept it as a part of every day life because it is presented to them in that way day in day out and perhaps if Chip had two gay uncles with a couple of kids then our children would soon accept this in the same way too.
However, that was 6 months ago and I would have been wrong. Today I am strongly on the side of the argument that wholeheartedly believes that sexuality, LGBTQ and relationships should be taught in schools. In fact I would go as far as to say it should be taught in primary schools not just high schools and from key stage 1 not key stage 2. I no longer believe that a simple change to resources and the inclusion of same sex characters in popular books is enough. Instead I do now believe that homophobia needs to be addressed directly, along with other subjects such as family dynamics, Islamophobia and sexism.
So what has changed my mind?
Well, firstly those that know me and know what my “day job” is will know that this is exactly what I do for a living. I travel from school to school in the North West delivering workshops about sexuality, so obviously if I didn’t petition for it I would be out of a job. However, putting my own financial gain to one side, the main reason my mindset has changed is because since I started delivering these workshops I have seen what happens when we don’t teach children about the effects of homophobic behaviours in schools. I have experienced first hand how upset parents can be about their children attending lessons about sexuality, with some of my very own pupils being withdrawn from my sessions as their parents do not wish for them to be “subject to such information”. So where I once assumed that households in today’s world readily show acceptance in front of their children and discuss diversity in the home, setting examples that can be mirrored by their children and therefore do not require us to actually teach this in schools I now fully understand that this is not the reality of what is happening.
Unfortunately, there are still a number of children being raised in houses where words such as ‘gay’ are being used in a derogatory manner, where homophobia is rife and comments about individuals sexuality are being made and often used as a defining point about them. When I conduct my workshops I ask a number of questions about sexuality and same sex relationships and I often hear teenagers repeating comments they have heard in the home and they have taken this to be the truth because why would a child not fully believe their parents? Why would they challenge these comments if it is their only encounter with them and they have no opposing notions to compare them too? It is precisely this reason why homophobia needs to be taught in schools because if we don’t we are failing the children who are currently living in homophobic environments and we are quite simply allowing the cycle to continue.
I am not suggesting that LGBTQ needs to be written in to the curriculum to be taught on a daily basis, however I do feel it is a subject that needs to be incorporated within a topic. We currently teach subjects such as ancient Egypt and the Titanic, both fascinating and important in their own way but would teaching our children more relevant topics, topics that will supply them with information that they can action in their everyday lives and help develop them as people not be more beneficial to their future success than whether or not they know the cause of the Titanic’s demise?
Some schools have already started to teach, not only sexuality, but all manners of divers factors, within their lessons, whereas others are hiring specific agencies and charities to go in and deliver specially designed workshops on the subject instead, both of which are fantastic and equally acceptable in my opinion. Personally I feel very fortunate that both my boys are in a school were equality and diversity is top of their agenda every step of the way but for those children that are being denied these lessons, either by their school or by t her parents, I will continue to lobby for them. I will continue to encourage schools to teach and parents to positively discuss sexuality with their children so that we can put an end to homophobic behaviours sooner rather than later.
If you too believe that sexuality should be taught in schools then please do share this post, speak to your children’s schools to see if it can be arranged, if it isn’t already, and start those conversations at home. If you don’t agree then still feel free to get in touch, I am always open to discussing these matters with everyone in a healthy and professional manner.
Conversations increase learning and reduce ignorance for everyone, so let’s talk.